How to Choose a Gas Grill – Six Things to Consider

There are plenty of options available for gas grills. Here are some key features to keep in mind:

  1. Think Safety First. Make sure the grill is stable. Think about where you are going to put your new gas grill. You don’t want it to tip over. If you have a flat patio surface, then a gas grill on a stand will work well. If you are putting a grill in the yard, then you need to find a level surface. Before you fire it up, push on the grill from several directions, and make sure it is stable. If you are putting a small grill onto a tabletop, the same rules apply. Make sure it is sturdy.

    Note the clearance on the handle to the lid surface. You don’t want to burn your fingers and knuckles. If you have large hands, or there is not much clearance, then make sure you are wearing a mitt when you open the lid.

  2. Get the right sized cooking surface. You can’t determine the cooking surface strictly by the overall size of the grill, so read the fine print. The surface area should hold enough food for the number of people that you regularly cook for. That means a family of four will want a larger grill than a family of two. A four inch raw burger needs about 20.25 square inches to cook. If you plan on cooking six of these at a time, then you would need around 121 square inches of grill space for cooking. It is also convenient, to keep the food warm once it is cooked. You can do this on separate warmer burners. Alternatively, you could light just half of the burners on your grill, cook on that half, and keep the other half for keeping food warm.

  3. Features Inside a gas grill. Cooking Surface, Side Burners, and Infrared Burners

    Looking Inside a gas grill. Note cooking surface, side burners, and infrared burner.

  4. Don’t judge a grill by total BTU’s alone. It is tempting to look at BTU’s and think power, but what they are really a measure of is fuel consumption. The more BTU’s you use, the more often you need to change the tank. Instead, think about BTU’s per area – of the main cooking surface. (Manufacturers may lump all the BTU’s from main cooking surface and auxilliary burners together to show you maximum BTU available.) You want about 80 – 100 BTU’s for each square inch of surface area. (For example, 40,000 BTU’s over 400 square inches of surface area is 100 BTU’s per inch, and would produce enough heat.) If you are planning to purchase an infrared grill, then 60-80 BTU’s per square inch is all you need.

  5. Make sure the construction is solid. A grill will be more efficient if it has a heavy lid and heavy grates. The best material of construction is 304 stainless steel. If the heat stays inside, then the food will cook faster with less energy and in less time.

  6. Get only the options you are going to use. Some essential (or at least very convenient) options are an electric igniter, built-in thermometer, side burners, and infrared burners. A rotisserie sounds great, but only makes sense if you are going to use it. (In fact, in a Consumer Reports Survey, Rotisseries and Griddle Plates were among the least used options.) Grills are also available with smoker boxes, built in lights, and warmer racks. Generally, more features increase the price of the grill.

  7. Consider return on investment (ROI) and Maintenance. A cheaply made grill may rust or need replacement parts on a regular basis. Some things, like the hinges on the lid, or the frame, are not easily replaced, and will result in you needing to buy a new grill. Clean your grill after each use so that they last longer. Also consider getting a grill cover to protect your purchase from the elements.